Most people are familiar with entrepreneurs- the risk-takers and innovators investing in the next big idea, the next million dollar startup. But what about the Intrapreneur? While the two words sound similar and even have overlapping definitions, an intrapreneur is a completely new concept.
What is an Entrepreneur?
First, let’s start by defining an entrepreneur. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, an entrepreneur is “a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.”
The story of the successful entrepreneur is truly one of the most well-told stories in America. From The Great Gatsby to Shark Tank, from Oprah to Steve Jobs, there’s something alluring about the individuals that build empires with nothing but a dollar and a dream.
Looking for some inspiration? Watch 50 entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs share their insights:
Be sure to read our previous article, The Advantages and Challenges of Entrepreneurship.
What is an Intrapreneur?
Similar to an entrepreneur, intrapreneurs are also known for taking risks and innovating. But the main difference is that intrapreneurs work within a company.
Intrapreneurs are leaders within their organization but don’t always get the credit they deserve like their entrepreneur counterparts. Examples of an intrapreneur include a manager that trains and develops thought leaders, an engineer that develops groundbreaking products, a marketer that finds unique ways to convey the value of a service.
Similarities between an entrepreneur and intrapreneur
Both entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs tend to deal with risk to some capacity. For entrepreneurs, it’s typically the risk of starting out with limited resources and uncertain outcomes. A startup for a ridesharing company may risk competing with several brands.
Intrapreneurs, on the other hand, face a different kind of risk- they must work within the confines and structure of their organization. For example, while pushing for a new product spinoff, intrapreneurs may have to take executive concerns and opinions into consideration.
If you want to be a successful intrapreneur or entrepreneur, you have to be ready to lead. By nature, leaders stand out in their ability to make difficult choices and ultimately empower others to do their best work. Whether it’s through their vision, strategy, charisma, or a combination of elements, leaders know how to enact change through collaboration.
Innovation doesn’t necessarily mean reinventing the wheel. It just means taking a nonconventional approach to solving problems or creating value. That’s why so many entrepreneurs start businesses- to offer value or solutions that don’t already exist in the market.
Even in a large company, innovation can be possible. Companies with decades of history and thousands of employees are still capable of undergoing significant change. Sometimes it only takes one person to start a domino effect of changes.
Differences between entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs
Resources and manpower
When it comes to resources, intrapreneurs often have an advantage over entrepreneurs; they generally have existing infrastructures, resources, and individuals to call on for assistance. If an experiment- such as the launch of a new line of products – fails, the company will unlikely go bankrupt.
Entrepreneurs have more to worry about – they need to think about how to invest their finances into the most vital resources. If an idea fails, the future of the business (and its workers) is thrown into question.
Process and positions
Organizations tend to follow a traditional hierarchy- managers typically hand down orders to lower assistants and foot soldiers. While working within a company to carry out new initiatives, intrapreneurs follow a similar process. Projects are completed in certain sequences using tried and tested methods, typically the waterfall method.
In contrast, entrepreneurs are not beholden to other stakeholders. They can choose to collaborate with others or work solo. That also frees them up to take on projects using agile methodology – a more iterative approach to building startups and products than the waterfall method utilized by most intrapreneurs.
Entrepreneurs tend to be glorified and heralded as the geniuses of our time, but intrapreneurs can inspire just as much change within an existing organization. Whether someone works in a small team, large enterprise, or on their own, the most defining aspects of both entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship involve the courage to try something radical for the benefit of the whole business.
Want to learn more about entrepreneurship? Check out this other comparison we did between entrepreneurs and small businesses.
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